A Psalm of Life

What the Heart of the Young Woman Said to the Old Maid

Original Text: 
Phoebe Cary, Poems and Parodies (Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1854): 193-95. Internet Archive. OCLC Id: 00271599.
2    Marriage is an empty dream,
3For the girl is dead that 's single,
4    And things are not what they seem.
5Married life is real, earnest;
6    Single blessedness a fib;
7Taken from man, to man returnest,
8    Has been spoken of the rib.
9Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
10    Is our destined end or way;
11But to act, that each to-morrow
12    Nearer brings the wedding-day.
13Life is long, and youth is fleeting,
14    And our hearts, if there we search,
15Still like steady drums are beating
16    Anxious marches to the church.
17In the world's broad field of battle,
18    In the bivouac of life,
19Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
20    Be a woman, be a wife!
21Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
22    Let the dead Past bury its dead!
23Act,--act in the living Present;
24    Heart within, and Man ahead!
25Lives of married folks remind us
26    We can live our lives as well,
27And, departing, leave behind us
28    Such examples as will tell;--
29Such examples, that another,
31A forlorn, unmarried brother,
32    Seeing, shall take heart, and court.
33Let us then be up and doing,
34    With the heart and head begin;
35Still achieving, still pursuing,
36    Learn to labor, and to win!


1] A parody of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life." Back to Line
30] Hymen: Greek god of marriage. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: